Reconstructing a warrior’s experience: Local artist to present at DU during Veterans Week

When Grand Rapids artist Matthew Provoast was cleaning out his grandfather’s home after he passed away, he came across boxes deep in the basement cupboards labeled “Viet Nam.” His grandfather, Thomas Zimmer, was a Metro Detroit native who served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1972.

“I recall rummaging through it, knowing that I had come across gold,” he said. “The photographs, journals, letters, maps and relics were meticulously organized in manila envelopes labeled with the dates and locations in such a way I couldn’t help but think he had left it for me to discover.”

The boxes set tucked away in his apartment closet for years until his final year at Kendall College of Art and Design. Provoast pieced together his grandfather’s story through the creation of “Dear Grampaw,” a series of photo encaustic (wax) collages that explore his grandfather’s experience in the Vietnam War.

“Piece by piece, I reconstructed his story through my lens – an enigmatic narrative personified only through the letters he sent and the photos he took. These possessions that he left here on earth helps me finish the hidden story of him, and in doing so, I’ve come to realize a stronger person within myself.”

Provoast’s art will be on display in the Academic Building Lower Foyer (across from the elevator near the Panther Den) from Monday, Nov. 6 to Friday, Nov. 10. He will be there to answer questions 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6 and Wednesday, Nov. 8 and 11 a.m. to noon Friday, Nov. 10.

He also will give a presentation about his art and the experience of creating it at noon Friday, Nov. 10 at the W.A. Lettinga Campus in Sneden Center Meeting Room 1. The event is free and open to the public.

“While examining his life from youth to adulthood, the placement in the traumatic situations of war changed his life and influenced this work,” Provoast said. “It has instilled in me a memory of a second-hand life that I have come to admire. Growing up as a child, my grandfather influenced me to become a photographer. Without his encouragement and support I truly think I wouldn’t be in the lucky position I am today. I know he would be very proud, knowing I recreated his Vietnam experience through my narrative.”


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